Arizona could become the next Wisconsin as plans for protests, Capitol sit-ins and a potential effort to recall the governor get underway in an effort by progressives to block the passage of sweeping legislation to ban collective bargaining.
State Democrats and union leaders said that plans are in place to launch Wisconsin-style measures in an effort to block the collective bargaining ban measures currently headed to a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate. Among the plans being considered are rallying large groups of public employees around the Capitol complex in Phoenix, lobbying moderate Republican legislators and potentially exploring a recall campaign against Gov. Jan Brewer (R). With Republicans' large majorities in both legislative chambers, Democrats believe rallies and public pressure may be the only way to block the passage of the bills.
"You may wake the sleeping giant of Arizona, between attacks on the schools, unions and the Latino population," state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) said.
Republican lawmakers have proposed bills that would prohibit all public employees -- including police and fire personnel -- from collectively bargaining, ban the automatic deduction of union dues for public employees and prohibit the compensation of public employees for work done with the union. The bills were approved by the Senate's government relations committee Wednesday.
"These bills are an all-out assault on workers and the middle class," said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D-Tempe).
Arizona AFL-CIO Executive Director Rebekah Friend said the unions are currently planning the rallies, but did not give a timeframe for when the events would actually take place. She said the labor movement was prepared for the payroll deduction bill and Brewer's previous announcements on collective bargaining, but were surprised by the scope of the current bills, including the addition of public safety workers.
"They over-reached this time," Friend said of the state's Republican leadership. "The people who have been their friends are against them."
Friend was specifically referring to public safety unions, which have shown support for Arizona Republicans in the past. Friend said she has been working with police and fire union leaders in an effort to block the legislation. Campbell and Schapira said they are hoping to peel off moderate Republicans in both chambers in an effort to block the legislation.
Brewer has not indicated her stance on the bills, but has announced plans to end civil service protections for state workers. A Brewer spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
Arizona is the latest front in the war on public employees that has swept the country in the last year. After Wisconsin's approvals, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) had similar legislation passed only to see it overturned in a public referendum last year. Last month, New Hampshire's Tea Party-dominated legislature took up a legislative package similar to that in Arizona.
Many of the bills have been connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization which has been providing model legislation to state legislatives nationwide. "We're fighting ALEC and the Goldwater Institute," Friend said of Arizona's battle. "The Goldwater Institute has filled the hearing room with Tea Party folks."
One idea receiving consideration is a recall campaign against Brewer similar to the one currently underway against Walker in Wisconsin. This is not the first time the idea of a Brewer recall has been floated. The group Citizens for a Better Arizona, which led the recall of former Senate President Russell Pearce (R) last year, also indicated a possible move to recall Brewer in November.
A recall against Brewer would be tough, with 432,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot. Only one Arizona governor -- Republican Evan Mecham in 1988 -- has faced a recall. Mecham's recall was canceled after successful impeachment measures by the state legislature.
Friend said there are a variety of reasons a recall campaign could be launched.
"Not taking care of the state, not balancing budgets," Friend said. "She didn't make sure our education system is strong. Going after unions is just one piece of the puzzle."
Campbell said that outside of a recall, he could see the collective bargaining helping Democrats in their effort to end the long Republican dominance of the state legislature this year.
"I don't know who is left in terms of who they want to upset [ahead] of the election cycle," Campbell said of the GOP.
UPDATE: 2:35 p.m. -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) will consider the collective bargaining bills only after the state legislature takes up her proposal to change the state's personnel system, the Associated Press reported. Last November, Brewer outlined a series of changes for state government employees including changing to at-will employees, eliminating fixed terms for certain agency directors and making it easier for supervisors to discipline employees.
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